I can think if it helps me belong: Analytical thinking is not always impaired after exclusion



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Humans have an innate need to belong and be a part of social groups (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). However, individuals are frequently faced with experiences of social exclusion in everyday life (Wesselmann et al., 2016), which thwarts an individual’s need to belong. Being excluded is an aversive experience that impacts behavioral, affective, and cognitive outcomes. The current work focuses on what cognitively occurs for an individual following an experience of social exclusion. Past research on this topic has outlined two distinct patterns of results. One is that exclusion leads to declines in intelligent cognitive processing (e.g., Baumeister, Twenge, & Nuss, 2002), and the other is that exclusion leads to increased cognitive processing of social cues (e.g., Pickett, Gardner, & Knowles, 2004). Two experiments evaluated the divergence in past findings. It was hypothesized that individuals who were excluded would perform well on analytical thinking tasks (intelligent cognitive processing), if those tasks were in the service of the individual fulfilling their need to belong. Results indicated that there were no differences in analytical thinking performance among excluded participants whether they were told that their performance would help fulfill their need to belong or not. Results are discussed in the context of poor overall performance on the analytical thinking measures used (GMAT & GRE) and the lack of differences between excluded and included participants on measures such as the Need to Belong Scale. The exclusion manipulations for both studies (Future Alone Paradigm & Exclusion/Inclusion Writing Task) were not shown to cause differences for participants on relevant scales such as the Need to Belong Scale and State Self-Esteem. Suggestions for future research using different manipulations are discussed.



Social exclusion, Need to belong, Analytical thinking, Attention